By most accounts, it’s believed that safety Xavier McKinney should have been a 1st-round draft pick. He’s been lauded as one of the 2020 Draft class’ biggest steals, and a potential game-changer on the backend of the New York Giants defense.
His former head coach at Alabama, Nick Saban, appears to agree with that sentiment. The six-time National Champion voiced a similar take on the Giants Huddle Podcast on Friday when he was asked how much of a steal Mckinney was for Big Blue.
It was, I think so. You know he was the first safety taken. Normally, statistically there are two safeties picked in the 1st-round if you look at historical data. He should have been a 1st-round pick based on historical information. And certainly as a player, I think most people had him graded there. I think this was a really really good pick for the Giants.
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McKinney Brings Versatility & Leadership to NY Secondary
Saban was asked by host Lance Medow what was it about McKinney’s versatility and skillset that allowed the coach to entrust McKinney with a slew of multiple roles during his time at Alabama. Saban pointed to McKinney’s diversity as his most appealing trait, essentially pegging him as the ideal safety they look for with the Crimson Tide.
I think Xavier has lots of diversity as a player. He can play man to man, he’s got pretty good ball judgement. He’s a good tackler, he’s got a lot of toughness. He’s a very instinctive and effective blitzer. He’s got some burst and acceleration to come off the edge or blitz up the middle and he’s got enough power to take on a blocker if he needs to.
He can do just about all the critical factors in terms of what we look for in a safety here. As he got experience he was smart enough to be able to play multiple positions. He played safety for us and what we call dime when we went to six defensive backs, and played strong safety one year, free safety one year. He’s got a lot of diversity as a player.
McKinney has been lauded by many as a leader during his three-year run with Alabama, something that will come in handy amongst a Giants secondary littered with youth. Despite being just 21-years of age, Saban appears to believe McKinney’s competitiveness will set him apart at the next level, and allow him to make an immediate significant impact on New York’s secondary.
The guy’s got some “dawg” in him. He’s a competitive guy. He’s a playmaker. We have a production point system here that we use and he was always high on that board because he forces fumbles, shows up in the right place, does a good job of executing. He’s instinctive. He’s a quick reactor. He’s got a burst. He can be a knock back tacker. He’s always been a real playmaker for us, I think it comes in a lot of different ways, but that’s probably his great strength, is his production.
Saban pointed towards McKinney’s growth as being an extra coach on the field, especially in his final season with the Tide.
As he got experience he learned how important it was to communicate. This past year X really took the bull by the horns and was the guy that ran the secondary. Took that responsibility and ran with it and I think that’s an important thing for him at the next level.
McKinney is coming to New York with huge expectations. The type of expectations that you don’t normally see from a player selected on the second day of the NFL Draft. However, by all accounts, including chatter out of Alabama and statements straight out of Saban’s mouth, it appears the safety is more than up for the challenge.
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